Even if we were the type who frequently had people over, which we aren’t, not many of those people would make it up to our bedroom. As a society, we tend to stop using the phrase “Want to see my bedroom?” around the age of 10 and then again shortly after college.
At most, the bedroom might be where the guests pile their coats or where you escape to for a tearful tête-à-tête after the hostess makes a sidelong remark about the brandied raisins you brought. (“Brandied raisins would be my favourite thing if it weren’t for the raisins.”)
Generally, though, we shy away from the so-called master bedroom because it’s considered to be a private place. You know, that’s where stuff happens, and you’d hate to stumble upon, you know, things or, like, manuals or, heaven forbid, exercise equipment that’s been ignored for 16 months.
At our house, specifically, since you asked, it would be, of course, “The cats… My god, the cats…!”
But the cats aren’t the only ones who make themselves at home in our bedroom. While friends and neighbours might shy away, our children like to hunker down from time to time. Abby, our youngest, particularly likes to settle in for a good ol’ chinwag. She’ll come upstairs, see Deb snuggled up with a book or a cat or five, and she’ll plunk herself down on the edge of the bed and chat for the next hour or so. And that’s how Deb finds out everything that’s going on and why her library books are always overdue.
Abby is living away from home now, but she’s home most weekends. I’ve always liked this age when our kids have finished high school and they’ve become very close to being humans. They still have a long way to go – for instance, they think they know how to drink but they’re wrong – but you can start to have real conversations with them that don’t involve what they can’t do or shouldn’t tattoo on their face. As young adults, they actually seem interested in you, an old adult. You’d think they’d be horrified at the prospect ahead of them, and yet they seem quite certain that they will never get there.
I also enjoy our children’s friends at this age. Everyone is suddenly… cool. That’s exciting. For me. Because I’m suddenly cool. How do I know this? I just do, shut-up!
So when Abby was home last Saturday, I was perfectly cool when she asked late in the evening whether two of her friends from her old high school – a school I work at – could sleep here; their original plans had fallen through.
(In case you’re wondering why I was the one who okayed it, Deb deferred to me since I knew these boys and could verify they weren’t psychopaths or Conservatives. I was at least half certain.)
“If they’re hungry,” I told Abby, “we have bagels.” Because that’s a cool food, right? And then I did the really cool Dad thing – got out of sight.
As we waited for them to arrive, Deb and I settled into bed with our books. It was late. Fine: it was 10:30, but it had been a busy day! It was cool in the house because it was September and we don’t turn on the heat until February, so I still had my bright red sweatshirt on. I propped up a pillow and crawled under the blankets.
Before long, we heard the boys come in. I did not hear any bagels come into play, which was a concern, but otherwise Abby seemed to have everything in hand. Eventually, they made their way upstairs, and, down the hall, they rock-paper-scissored over who got the bed and who got the air mattress.
And then they were in our bedroom.
“Hi, sir. Thanks for letting us stay.”
“You’re welcome,” I said. They’re in my bedroom. “What happened with your original plans?” Kids from school. “Are you hungry?” Should I mention the bagels? “Are you allergic to cats?” What else do we have lying around? “Well, have a good night.”
If I’d been lying on top of the blankets, that would have been one thing, but I was right underneath, with a red sweatshirt on. I was essentially modern-day Carl Reiner. I realized then that the thing you don’t want to see in the bedroom… is me.
The bedroom is a weird place to have a conversation, even with recently humanized high school graduates who are simply doing the polite thing. Or maybe I was the only one who felt weird. Who’s to know? My only wish is that they had seen me as cool instead of what I really am: cold.